Do you want to feel bad about humanity? Oh boy, do I have the film for you. The Mist is a genuinely scary film that explores humanity’s worst impulses when faced with extreme situations. It is tense, horrific and bleak with great performances and not so great visual effects.
The Mist is a 2007 film based on a Stephen King novella about a small town that is encompassed by a mist. There seems to be something in the mist that has a habit of absolutely destroying anyone who ventures into the mist. The story follows David Drayton a loving husband and father. A terrible storm damages his house, so he and his son go in to town to get supplies. They stop at the grocery store when the mist descends upon them. They and many other townspeople are trapped in the store as monsters lurk outside.
Inside this pressure cooker of a grocery store, the residents begin to indulge their worst impulses. Fear and stress leads some to follow the rantings of a religious fanatic who claims to have all the answers. She’s played by Marcia Gay Harden. Others follow the logical to a fault Brent Norton played by Andre Braugher. Caught in the middle is David and the few people who don’t follow either extreme. The interactions between these people make for some extremely compelling drama. The situation is fraught with tension. The conflict escalates nicely, and the dialogue is pitch perfect.
Frank Darabont made a masterpiece from a Stephen King novella with The Shawshank Redemption. Here is writes and directs another fantastic adaptation. He populates the store with richly drawn characters. His camerawork is exquisite. It’s a beautifully shot and perfectly framed movie. He captures the intensity of the situation with a camera that moves freely, but never crosses over into shaky cam territory. The character work is fantastic. These people don’t behave like action heroes or movie stars. They feel real because of the small moments, the attention to detail. How a character trips or stumbles, the way a person freezes when faced with something terrifying. The way they argue and justify mistakes. It is truly great work.
Spoiler alert, there are monsters in the mist. These monsters have some of the best creature design in any horror film. They are creatively conceived and vividly detailed. The trouble is with the cgi. These computer effects do not hold up. They look too shiny and slippery. They never seem to inhabit the same world as the characters. Every once in a while, they switch to a real life puppet or animatronic and the improvement in appearance is incredible. It’s sad they didn’t stick with practical effects instead of these rubbery looking cgi monsters. The crazy thing about the direction is that the fact monsters don’t detract from the tension. There’s a brilliant early moment in the loading dock where some fake monster attacks, but the scene is still rife with tension and horror. It is an incredible scene regardless of the cgi. That is a huge testament to the direction and performances.
I said this movie will make you feel bad about humanity. It made me feel terrible about people. It does not have a sunny disposition with regards to human nature. After this movie, it’s hard to disagree. This movie plays more viscerally in todays climate than it probably did in 2007. People are willing to follow any voice that offers solace in crisis. Critical thinking flies out the window when people are scared. People behave barbarically toward one another when threatened. What are the real monsters? The creatures out to get us, or our neighbors when they’re scared?
The real gut punch though comes in the final moments of the movie. It is one of bleakest and most hopeless endings I’ve seen. I saw it coming, but it was still horrible to sit through. It is a rough conclusion. I’m not a fan of hopeless endings. This was a challenge for me. I’m not trying to ward you off watching the movie, I think it’s a great movie. I’m just trying to warn you that if you go all in on this movie it might just break your heart.
Brilliant directing, great acting, and a tight script make this a deeply engaging movie with a very bleak outlook. If you have the stomach for it I definitely recommend it. It’s mostly my cup of tea. A-